Background: Salvia divinorum (Salvia) is an increasingly popular recreational drug amongst adolescents and young adults. Its primary active ingredient, Salvinorin A (SA)-a highly selective agonist at the κ opiate receptor-is believed to be one of the most potent naturally occurring hallucinogens. However, there is little experimental data on the effects of SA in humans.
Methods: In a 3-day, double-blind, randomized, crossover, counterbalanced study, the behavioral, subjective, cognitive, psychophysiological, and endocrine effects of 0 mg, 8 mg, and 12 mg of inhaled SA were characterized in 10 healthy individuals who had previously used Salvia.
Results: SA produced psychotomimetic effects and perceptual alterations, including dissociative and somaesthetic effects, increased plasma cortisol and prolactin, and reduced resting electroencephalogram spectral power. The SA administration was associated with a rapid increase of its levels in the blood. SA did not produce euphoria, cognitive deficits, or changes in vital signs. The effects were transient and not dose-related. SA administration was very well-tolerated without acute or delayed adverse effects.
Conclusions: SA produced a wide range of transient effects in healthy subjects. The perceptual altering effects and lack of euphoric effects would explain its intermittent use pattern. Such a profile would also suggest a low addictive potential similar to other hallucinogens and consistent with κ opiate receptor agonism. Further work is warranted to carefully characterize a full spectrum of its effects in humans, to elucidate the underlying mechanisms involved, and to explore the basis for individual variability in its effects.
Copyright © 2012 Society of Biological Psychiatry. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.